DOL of Fame
March 7 2002
Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson

Why do we love Marian?

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. In the early part of the 20th century, a community raised one of the greatest and most groundbreaking voices heard in the modern era. Marian Anderson's church, where she began singing at the age of 6, recognized the talent in their midst and raised the money for her to seek voice lessons with an ever-better succession of teachers throughout her teens. They even sent her to study at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. Marian rewarded them by embarking on a series of concert tours, singing classical pieces and spirituals. Sailing to Europe in her twenties, Marian continued her education, mastering the wide variety of classical vocal styles and expanding her repertoire of classical concert music. The great conductor Arturo Toscanini heard one of her concerts in Austria and said, "a voice like hers is heard only once in a hundred years."

However, Marian is primarily known for the scandal incited when she was refused a booking Easter weekend at the concert hall run by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Constitution Hall, in Washington, DC, for being a "singer of color." The volume of outcry was so great that then-First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and offered Marian the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for her concert, which was to be free for as many who wanted to attend. Seventy-five thousand people attended, among the largest crowds ever to gather at the monument. It was only one of the many barriers Marian broke and firsts she recorded in her long career. Her farewell tour opened at Constitution Hall and ended at Carnegie Hall on Easter Sunday, 1965.



Born - February 27, 1897
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died - April 8, 1993
Danbury, Connecticut


  • 1914—Performed first public concerts at the age of 18
  • 1917—First solo concert
  • 1924—Began her professional concert career
  • 1928—Made her Carnegie Hall debut
  • 1937—Sang for the Roosevelts, becoming the first African-American to perform at the White House
  • 1939—Performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after denial by DAR to perform at Constitution Hall
  • 1939—Received the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP, presented by Eleanor Roosevelt
  • 1952—Awarded the Swedish "Litteris et Artibus" medal by King Gustav
  • 1955—Performed role of Ulrica in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, becoming the first African-American soloist at the Metropolitan Opera
  • 1956—Publishes autobiography, My Lord What a Morning
  • 1958—Appointed alternate delegate to the United Nations by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • 1961—Performed at inauguration of John F. Kennedy
  • 1963—Awarded the first President's Medal of Freedom by John F. Kennedy
  • 1965—Performed at inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 1977—Won the United Nations Peace Prize
  • 1978—Recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, to celebrate the achievements of America's greatest performing artists, the first year they were awarded
  • 1984—Received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award
  • 1986—Awarded a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts

In her own words -- On her audience:

"I have never been able to analyse the qualities that the audience contributes to a performance. The most important, I think, are sympathy, open-mindedness, expectancy, faith, and a certain support to your effort. I know that my career could not have been what it is without all these things, which have come from many people. The knowledge of the feelings other people have expended on me has kept me going when times were hard. That knowledge has been a responsibility, a challenge, and an inspiration. It has been the path to development and growth. The faith and confidence of others in me have been like shining, guiding stars."

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Background information and/or picture compliments of: Marian Anderson: A Life in Song